House of Commons Hansard #49 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was program.

Topics

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11:25 a.m.

Malpeque P.E.I.

Liberal

Wayne Easter LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (Rural Development)

Madam Speaker, I want to come back to the question that the minister asked the member earlier. I believe it was a low blow for the member opposite to say that the minister did not want to go to the UPA convention. There was an emergency debate on agriculture that day in the House and that is why the minister stayed. He stayed to debate the issue in an important way about policy that could benefit all agriculture producers in Canada.

The member opposite did not answer the minister's question on two points. One was on the assistance to BSE and whether it helped producers in Quebec. I know members of the separatist party find it difficult to admit that Canadian programs benefit their producers, and they do.

The second question related to dairy, which was as a result of the request from Quebec producers and other dairy producers in Canada. They asked that we try to bring into the formula, through the Canadian Dairy Commission, some compensation for the lower returns for cull cow prices and so on to the dairy industry.

Yes, there is more we can do, we know that, but will the member admit that those programs have been of benefit to Quebec producers?

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February 3rd, 2005 / 11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Denise Poirier-Rivard Bloc Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Madam Speaker, I will not belabour the point, but I would like to return to what I was saying earlier about the Union des producteurs agricole meeting. As I said, it is only a 50-minute flight from Ottawa to Quebec City. I feel the minister could have gone to meet with the producers.

The program in place has done nothing to help the producers. In fact, when some of them need an accountant's help to fill out the paperwork, I wonder if its purpose is to help the bankers, the accountants or the farmers.

As we have said, the situation is different in Quebec; we have a problem with cull cattle. I think that we have been calling for a minimum price since October. I have asked this of the minister on numerous occasions and his answer was that it could be Canada wide. I think that would be the only solution.

The minister has also said on very many occasions that he was negotiating with the province. The dairy producers are still waiting to hear an announcement from the federal government on assistance for them with the cull cattle situation.

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11:25 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, as always, it is an honour to rise in the House. I am beginning to feel like I am an extra in a movie. The movie is Bill Murray's Groundhog Day . Every time I wake up, I am in the House with the hon. minister across from me, talking about the same issue. Just as in that movie, at the end of the day, nothing has changed.

We have been at this issue for too long. Every day we ask the same questions and every day we get the same answers. Nothing changes except one thing. Every day the government does not act or put a proper plan in place, farmers go under.

I brought forward the case of a farmer and I spoke to the minister and his staff about it. The farmer had 1,000 head of cattle, one of the largest ranch operations in my riding. He had been completely turned down by CAIS. He received a blanket letter thanking him for putting in his money for deposit, for having to borrow the money and for having to pay his accountant, but he did not qualify for CAIS.

I approached the minister on this. He referred me to his staff, for which I thank him. His staff referred me to the CAIS specialist. Just like in the Groundhog Day scenario, day after day I phoned and nothing changed until Christmas Eve.

On Christmas Eve I was sitting in a banker's office with the rancher, pleading for his farm. The bank was foreclosing on a $70,000 loan on his farm. He was only three months behind, but the bank figured it was time to shut down a million dollar farm operation. I begged that bank to hold off. What could I say? The fact is he never got a CAIS cheque. If he had, he would not have been in that disgraceful situation.

When we about CAIS and the deposit, it is important that we put this discussion into a much larger framework. The Conservatives have done us a favour by bringing forward the question on the CAIS deposit. The minister knows well what farmers think of the CAIS deposit. This issue has come up again and again. When we talk to the CAIS officials, they say that yes, they are hearing from farmers, that yes, they are taking farmers' concerns seriously, that yes, they are doing a review and that yes, they are having a review completed. Then we ask the punch-line question, which is when will the review be done, and they say that it will be done in June or July. That is well past the date when farmers have to borrow money to get back into CAIS if they want to keep going. The motion before us is very timely, but it is indicative of the bigger problem.

The CAIS program may or may not have succeeded in normal times, but it has been an absolute failure in the beef economy. There is no disputing that. It has not been disaster relief, but a disaster. Some farmers I know have put in $10,000. Some of them have received cheques for $900, despite the fact that they are almost bankrupt now. They tell me that they probably will have to raise more money to get their CAIS back up. Whatever they have received, the government takes back in the new round of deposits.

It is not just beef. If we look across the agricultural sectors of Canada at grain, our cash crop farmers are going under. This is industry is on the brink. I spoke with a farmer last night. He told me that agriculture in Ontario is now past the point of no return. I think I could fairly say that this is the situation right across Canada. He told me that he did not know how he could ever be viable again as a farmer. He said that if someone gave him $500 for each of his cows, he would be gone from agriculture today and that every farmer on his range road would be gone as well. That is a disgraceful situation.

When we talk about the CAIS deposits, I see that the minister has a difficult position. I do not think it is a matter of him saying to cabinet that we need another $1 billion for our farmers. We need an indication of whether the government and cabinet will say that it is committed to a plan to save rural Canada, not just agriculture, That is what this discussion is about now.

If the government does not have a plan, then be honest about it and say that it has promoted a race to the bottom. If people can buy their food cheaper than a farmer can make it, so be it. I do not think that is just and I do not think that is right, but maybe that is the position of the government. I would rather hear farmers being told to tell their sons and daughters to get out of farming now. Do not lead them along. We need a clear definition. Are we going to put the necessary funds into restoring rural Canada or are we going to let it go down the tubes?

Another farmer I spoke to said, “We are completely on our own. We are competing against everybody in the world and we have no support. We know that the Europeans completely support their farmers. The Americans completely support theirs. We do not have nearly the level of support. We are competitive in good times, but the good times are becoming fewer and fewer”. And that brings us to the CAIS program and the whole margins issue.

The problem with it now, particularly with beef, is that with our farmers having had two disastrous years in a row their margins have been wiped out. Most of them are not going to be able to apply for CAIS in the coming year. Most of them could not get CAIS because they do not have the funds left. So the $10,000 or the $30,000 they had to borrow to get into CAIS, which they cannot get back, could have been the money that would have kept their farms going. That could have been money that they could have used to pay their loans so that the banks would not foreclose on them. Unfortunately, the money is locked up. It has not served its purpose.

I asked the minister the last time we met to take me anywhere in Canada, to take me down any rural road, to take me to any house he wanted and ask me to knock on the door and see if the CAIS program had worked there. We do not have anything yet. I am still knocking on those rural doors, saying, “Tell me I am wrong. Tell me that CAIS works”. I would love to be proven wrong. I would love to sit down here and say, “What a fantastic program. Thank God our government did something for farmers”. But I have not found that yet.

If any of the hon. members across the floor in Quebec have rural roads that they would want me to walk down to knock on doors, I will do it, because CAIS has not worked and it is time we just admitted it. What we have done is that we have gone on week after week, month after month, passing on this charade that somehow this crisis we are in--and it is not just the crisis in beef but the entire crisis in agriculture--is going to pass and everything is going to be bonny and rosy again. We know that is not the case. Because of the debt that has accumulated, particularly in the beef industry in the last two years, those farmers have no ability to get out from under that debt load.

I think we have to look at the pressure that is on agriculture across Canada. In Ontario, with the nutrient farm management programs that have been brought in place, we saw numerous small operations go under. They just cannot continue with the regulations they are facing. I do not say that I am against good, strong, safe regulations for drinking water and meat. That is very important, but I will tell the minister that I have serious concerns about how we are applying these regulations.

In terms of what we have been talking about, the slaughter capacity, we go over this again and again. I have small abattoirs in my riding that have been trying to help the farmers of Abitibi—Témiscamingue because they are neighbouring communities. They are neighbouring farms, they are relatives of each other and they cannot even slaughter the cows from Abitibi—Témiscamingue. Two abattoirs that I know of are being shut down over this. Who is shutting them down? It is our federal government that is saying they cannot do that, that they cannot help in a time of dire crisis. This is the biggest crisis we have had in the history of Canadian agriculture and we have the CFIA coming into our provincial plants saying, “You cannot help your Quebec neighbours. Let them be on their own”. I think that is a travesty.

When we sit in hearings and talk about how we are going to address this crisis, it seems to me that again it is like Groundhog Day . Day after day we talk with the CFIA officials or day after day we talk with the minister's staff and it never seems to be about the fact that this is a crisis. This is a crisis. People are losing their farms. Rural Canada is going under.

So I will put it to the minister today: let us be honest here. We can talk in this debate about the CAIS deposit, and it is a good debate, but are we willing to do what is necessary? Or are we going to continue on the road of a race to the bottom?

This morning I was reading my papers from home and there was a wonderful letter in the Kirkland Lake newspaper from Tom Petricevic, who wrote a letter to Ontario farmers. He wrote that it was hard for him to believe that the Ontario Federation of Agriculture would expect any help from the government in 2005. He wrote:

Hasn't it dawned on them yet that they have been abandoned by the Government of Canada to the “Global Market”...Unless Canadians elect a government that will reclaim sovereignty, the race to the bottom will go on and we are all out of luck....

We saw the race to the bottom with the fact that we are now sending our own flags overseas to be made, so I suppose we should find it hard to expect the government to stand up and say, “Yes, Canadian farmers have a right to get a fair wage for their animals and for their crops”. We have a right to expect that our government is going to say that rural Canada has a value, that there is an infrastructure in rural Canada that is worth protecting, and that it is not just some widget that we can ship overseas, although I know some in trade probably think that would be a wonderful solution.

There is a value to having a strong rural identity. It is an identity that is articulated in the United States and the United States fights for its farmers. It is an identity that is articulated all over Europe and Europe fights for its farmers. It is an identity that is articulated very clearly in our Province of Quebec and Quebec fights very strongly for its farmers. But our federal government continues on this path of saying, “Let us hope for the best. Let us hope that the border will reopen”.

My biggest fear is that by saying “let us hope for the best, let us hope for the border reopening”, our government will be able to walk away from the fact that we have billions of dollars of debt sitting there in the farm community which the farm community will never be able to pay back. I think that is an unacceptable situation.

Therefore, does the New Democratic Party support the ending of the CAIS deposit immediately? Yes, we do. We support any of the parties that are continuing to fight to make rural Canada viable again, but our party is saying that we need to have a bigger plan. We need to move this beyond just the minister here. I know we have been beating him up all morning; we beat him up about once every two weeks.

But the hon. minister is in an impossible position, because it is no longer just about the agriculture department. We need a clear vision from the Government of Canada that it will take the steps necessary to restore the vitality of rural Canada and that we will stand on the international stage against the WTO if it comes after our farmers or against NAFTA if it comes after our farmers, because other governments do it and ours does not.

The question is whether eliminating this CAIS deposit is going to change the box colours that we are in under the WTO. It does not matter, because for any changes that we make to protect our farmers, the WTO will come after us. We should be expecting that. So be it, but we need to be able to say that we have to do what it takes to restore our rural economy and to support our farmers. If we have to fight on trade issues, then let us fight on them. The WTO uses trade against us time and time again and what we see is continuing damage, particularly in our wheat. We are seeing it in our hogs. We have seen this capricious attack on us over beef. It is time we stood up on this.

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11:40 a.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka Ontario

Liberal

Andy Mitchell LiberalMinister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his intervention. He always has a very succinct and passionate approach to things and I very much appreciate that. I think the member and I have the same genuine concern for individual producers. I think we have a different approach and philosophy on how to go about doing that, and fair enough.

Here is what I would say, though. The member brought this up and I agree with him: this is an issue about rural Canada and the sustainability of rural Canada. This is something that I have spent a good part of my public life and my private career before that dealing with, and that is the importance of sustaining rural Canada, the importance of understanding that this country will be successful when both its urban and rural components are strong, the importance of understanding that it is absolutely essential that we protect and promote our natural resource based industries, particularly agriculture. As the Minister of Agriculture that is my particular concern. And it is absolutely essential that we protect and promote the network of communities essential to sustaining that industry.

That is why this government has a very strong horizontal initiative among all our departments to ensure that we take the needs of rural Canada into account and that we make sure as we take on individual policies to apply a rural lens and ensure that what we do makes sense not just in the largest of cities but in the smallest of communities as well. I think the member is right in pointing out the importance of the holistic approach for rural communities in terms of that.

I have a very specific question for the hon. member. In 2003 the government provided some $4.8 billion to support Canadian producers. It is well over $3 billion in the current fiscal year and it is going forward. If I understood the member correctly, he said it is not that he wants to see changes in CAIS but he thinks it is a program that does not work at all and we should throw it out.

I will ask the member this question. We have spent $4.8 billion. We have invested it. I think that is important to do. Could the member tell us about the type of programming that he and the New Democratic Party would suggest should be put in place and the kinds of costs that he believes should surround something like that?

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11:45 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, I welcome the suggestions in the discussion. I am very pleased to know that there is a horizontal plan for rural Canada, but the horizontal plan I have seen has been one that is laid out on the kitchen table with all the relatives going by apologizing for not having come to see the corpse before he died. That seems to be the situation with our horizontal plan for rural Canada.

In fact, over Christmas I met with a lot of beef producers back home, and let me tell members, they do not even want to talk about it anymore. There is despair. It is a fundamental despair.

We are talking about the money that has been put in. We talked about the big announcements that were made this September in terms of money that was going to be put immediately into the hands of the farmers. There must be some pretty wealthy farmers out there, because all the farmers I know never saw any of that money.

Then we talk about how we are going to revitalize the rural economy of Canada and we talk about slaughter capacity. Every time we talk about the increasing numbers it seems to me they are coming from two or three giant packers who continue to grow and expand their control over the beef economy of Canada. Meanwhile, there is not a single dollar, not a single one, going toward actually putting concrete into the ground in smaller rural regional plants. There are loan loss guarantees; money is not being put forward. It is money that is in the air but it is not money that is reaching into these communities.

In terms of the CAIS deposit, I think there are a number of problems with it. As I said at the beginning of my remarks, CAIS might have worked. It might have worked in a different set of times and it might have worked if we had had more people actually on the ground to administer it and respond. We have not had responses to problems. What we have had is nobody home; we did not have anybody in Ontario, as far as I could tell, who could even answer farmers' problems. That was our sense. When I had the MPs' hotline for CAIS, there was no one there.

I would throw out this question to the minister. When he is in a bureaucratic situation and suddenly has 13,000 applications and is only set to deal with 5,000 or 6,000, what does he do? He sends out 100% rejections and hopes that maybe 30% or 40% will appeal. That seems to be what has happened with CAIS.

What would the New Democratic Party do? We would have had people on the ground to respond to these issues. Farmers brought forward very serious problems with CAIS and they have not been addressed. They had questions about their inventory, questions about how the government continues to overvalue inventory the farmers cannot get rid of and then uses it against their margins.

We need some very clear long term goals in terms of a program. NISA was not a bad program. CAIS does not do the job for the beef industry. I think the minister's own CAIS staff will support us on that; at the agriculture committee they finally said that CAIS was not designed for an emergency like beef. Then why are they using it?

We are almost two years into this crisis. It is not over yet and we still do not have an action plan for dealing with it.

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11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Marcel Gagnon Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Madam Speaker, I have listened attentively to the speech by my NDP colleague. He was absolutely right in his explanation of the agricultural situation. I have also heard the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food refer to that hon. member's passionate approach when it comes to agriculture.

I will ask him a question later on to see whether he agrees with me.

In the meantime, however, I would point out that the passion for agriculture is precisely what this government lacks. It lacks the realization that agriculture is the basis of our economy. It is meaningless to point out that so many billions of dollars have been given out.

I have been here for some years and every time there has been a crisis in agriculture, we have seen it coming, asked questions and waited. We have waited for it, and other things as well, and yet a major crisis comes along like this one and there are no measures except to spout a lot of nice numbers. Those numbers often do not translate into cheques in the farmers' pockets.

I would like to ask the colleague whether there is a way he could transmit his passion for agriculture to the minister, since that is what is missing: a passion for an industry of such great importance.

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11:45 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, I know that there is a big push within our agriculture department to start looking at genetically modified crops. Maybe we could discuss genetically modified members of Parliament as perhaps a way of putting a little bit of passion into this.

I thank the member for mentioning passion. We are talking about lives here. We are literally talking in some cases about life and death, but we are talking about a way of life. We have three and four generation farms that are going under.

When I sit in at agriculture hearings and talk to the CAIS staff and, in fact, when I talk to any of the staff from agriculture, I have a sense that everything is okay in Ottawa. I get the feeling that among our farmers who live on Parliament Hill, or among our cash croppers in the Wellington Building things are okay. Even where the minister has the main agriculture office on Carling Avenue, among all the dairy producers who live there, things are okay. We have a few problems and we are tinkering.

However, it is a completely different reality in the communities. Northern Ontario has the same problem as does western Canada. Our families are going under and they are crying out. Some of them do not want to even talk about it any more. They are so filled with despair.

In fact, I phoned one of my ranchers at home, someone I talk with all the time, to get a sense of what is happening now. I said that I was going into a debate. His wife said to me that he is not going to phone back. He is tired of all this. This gentleman is a third generation rancher. She said that he is not going to phone me back because nothing ever changes. It has all been said again and again.

I feel like a fool phoning and saying, “Hey, what's new with the farmers going under?” I know the situation was the same three months ago. It was the same six months ago. It was the same a year ago. We knew what the problem was and nothing has been done to fix it.

Therefore, could there be a little bit of passion about this? We need passion or we should just be saying that the government will cut the farmers off and forget rural Canada all together.

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11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, here we go again. The minister is here today and I welcome his presence. He is quite upset though that we sprung this on him. I would like to remind the minister that this has been going on for the last 12 to 15 years.

The first meetings that I attended when I started farming in the early 1970s were on this same issue. Farmers cannot get a fair share of the market, if that is the way they want to phrase it, but the bottom line is that our input costs are choking us. Freight is killing us. There are a number of things that the government can do tomorrow to help alleviate some of the pressure instead of all these studies and ongoing crisis management that it seems to be under.

Madam Speaker, I would also like to mention that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands.

There are a couple of things that never really enter into the government side debate on agriculture. What is the reality out there? The last member talked about passion. He is absolutely right. Every minister that I have been head to head with over there talks about files and numbers and programs and so on. We deal with faces. We deal with families. There is a big difference. We start to get into the passion that the member from Quebec talked about. I have been accused of being very strident in my language condemning the government but I am not alone.

As a former producer, now a parliamentarian who is supposed to come up with some of the answers, it is a frustrating time. The parliamentary secretary led the charge thirty-some years ago. He was the same person who threw wheat at Prime Minister Trudeau and threw chickens off the balcony of the Alberta legislature to prove his point. He was far more effective then than he is now when it comes to the farm lobby. Certainly, he is a strong voice, but his voice is one that is defending the lack of positive action by the government.

All the promises in the world can be made. The minister stood up and gave us a litany of dollars here and dollars there, promising $10 billion or $100 billion. However, if he never intends to deliver it, the numbers are inconsequential. The Liberals have to understand that. The numbers do not matter here. The only number that really matters out of 2003, the worst year in history, is that 11,000 primary producers left agriculture. That is the only number that matters. The numbers in these programs are inconsequential because they can never make them work.

Everything is based on this compliance with WTO. We are compliancing our farmers right out of business. By the time we step up or the other countries finally come on board with the WTO list, where we are always the Boy Scouts and get there first, there are no Canadian producers left to defend.

Let us start to defend our guys and our women as opposed to the producers from Brazil. We talk about this burgeoning market but one farm there has 490,000 acres. They have a beef herd of 170 million cattle. That is well over 10 times ours and we are going to compete with them? We cannot begin to and it is not that our folks are not up to the challenge. It is that our folks are overtaxed and over-regulated in complying with the wish list of the government. They cannot compete with someone who does not have that regulatory burden. That is part of the problem.

The government is looking for long term solutions. We heard this morning that the minister has been looking at the CAIS deposit since last July. The committee was supposed to be struck in December. It is now February and it has not happened. Some of the provinces have not come forward with a list or whatever. Let us get on with it.

I have records here. I asked for access to information on the safety nets advisory committee that three of the ministers have last used. They have been on the record since the start of CAIS with all of these questions that we are raising today saying that this is not going to make a bankable program. They have been on the record for almost four years and they are still not being listened to. These are the folks that represent the producers out there.

The minister hides behind the fact that he has to have provincial approval. He should show some leadership. All the provinces want is for the minister to pony up his share of the bucks. They are not really concerned about the criteria of the program. They want to support their farmers. I have talked to those provincial ministers. They just want the federal government to show the leadership that it should. We have not seen it at all.

It is frustrating. There is a lot of passion involved here. The CAIS program was supposed to be successful. Third time is the charm for the Liberal government because the first two programs, AIDA and CFIP, were a washout.

The government built the CAIS program on that same flawed foundation. Instead of the third time being the charm, we got strike three. The people who are being affected are the faces and families we deal with, not the files and numbers that the minister hides behind. That is not going to make it happen. He has to get out there and make things go.

There has been a lot of talk lately in the media about the increase in the price of milk for the dairy industry. Good for it if it was able to pass its costs on. The rest of us have not been able to find that magic bullet. The bottom line as to why that happened is because the CAIS program failed the industry as well. It has the option with its supply managed sector to move in another way.

It made a difference of maybe 4% or 5% in pricing and the market is going to absorb that. I have not had one phone call complaining about that other than the restaurant association, which would never pass it on to consumers anyway. The consumers certainly do not get their fair share. If someone goes to a restaurant and buys breakfast for $10, the farmer gets less than what the tip would be to the waitress. Good for the waitress and the restaurant for getting their fair share, but where is the producer's share?

The minister says it will take a long term solution, we have to have a list, and he is looking to us for positive suggestions. Here are a few. Input costs are roughly half tax. That includes fuel, fertilizer, chemical, farm machinery parts and so on. Fuel, fertilizer and chemical are half tax. Problems arise in cash crunch situations. The government has linked crop insurance or production insurance, it changed the name to make it more palatable because crop insurance did not work, with the CAISP under a little thing called best farming practices.

If I do not put in my historical average of fertilizer, spray on the chemical and all that type of thing, when I ask for a payout under production insurance or CAIS program, the government is going to send me a letter saying, “Under best farming practices, you didn't do it according to our rules, so we are only going to pay you half”, which means I do not have the cash to pay for the inputs that I should.

Last year again we were frozen out in my neck of the woods after two years of drought, so cash is a commodity we do not have. We cannot even go back to the banks and talk about lines of credit because these guys laugh at us when we say we have a certain amount coming from CAIS program. They know it will never be delivered.

Credit lines and cashflow are non-existent. When I go to my suppliers and say I have to charge this or that, they say no, they are still carrying $1 million, $2 million, $3 million from last year. If we think 2003 was bad, wait until we see the numbers from 2004 and then 2005. It is only going to get worse. We have to start to do something today, not next July when we want these guys to report, not next January when grain producers will finally see some money out of CAIS program. We have to start today. It could be cash advances. We have to do whatever it takes.

We talk about a whole different program using 10 year averages, working in the cost of production, looking at market value of product, and a combination of some of the programs that worked over the years, but there was never the political will or the cashflow to carry it through.

It was said earlier today and I have said often that agriculture accounts for 250,000 to 300,000 jobs in this country. The ripple effect is unbelievable. We saw that with the BSE crisis.

In response to somebody else a while ago I heard the minister speak glowingly about $115 million that went out to cattle producers. It is big money. The industry lost $2 billion. A 5% solution is not going to measure up. It is not going to get the job done. The money was there. We saw it in announcement after announcement. The Liberals get an “A” for announcement and a “D” for delivery, a failing grade by anybody's standards.

They are not changing anything. They are saying that they will address this and that, and they will conduct a study and have a look at it. People are going broke while they dither and dally on the other side. They have to start the process yesterday. We cannot wait.

Producers are on a very slippery slope. We are competing on a global market. The European Union now is talking about re-subsidizing and the minister says that is not fair. Everybody knows that.

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11:55 a.m.

An hon. member

What are you doing about it?

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11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

What is the government going to do about it? That is the question.

We have a market that may or may not open on March 7. Mike Johanns, the new American agricultural secretary, is before a Senate committee right now defending that border opening. Where is the support from Canada? We are the ones paying the price here and we are relying on him to make the argument for us. We have allies down there we are not even making use of. We sit here wringing our hands saying, “Boy, we hope that border opens”.

Where is the processing capacity we need, especially for the cull animals, and the loan loss reserve? We have to go broke to collect 40% back. That is never going to stimulate any processing.

The government has made announcements and pledged money that it never expects to deliver. That is the worst sort of hypocrisy. It is called faith and hope that farmers used to have. Farmers do not have faith in the government any more and are quickly losing their hope.

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Noon

Parry Sound—Muskoka Ontario

Liberal

Andy Mitchell LiberalMinister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Madam Speaker, earlier in the debate we talked about trying to deal with reality and not deal with political rhetoric. I want to point out a couple of things in the member's speech. He said that my department only gave $110 million for BSE. That is absolutely wrong.

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Noon

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Conservative Cambridge, ON

That is not what he said.

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Noon

Liberal

Andy Mitchell Liberal Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

That is exactly what he said, Madam Speaker, and we can look at the blues.

We provided $1.8 billion for BSE. The specific issue was that the Conservative Party said that if there is a special advance under CAIS, nothing will go out. On that specific issue $110 million went out. The Conservative Party said none went out, but in fact on that one specific part of the $1.8 billion, $110 million went out.

The member also talked about Johanns, the new agriculture secretary in the United States, being in front of his senate committee and somehow indicating that we should be in front of the U.S. senate committee. The reality is that we have made literally hundreds of interventions. We have been working with the Americans on a daily basis in order to get the border open and the hon. member knows that.

During his speech this morning the Leader of the Opposition talked about a specific Conservative plan about a whole farm income shared one-third, one-third, one-third. That is generally what the Leader of the Opposition said. Is it intended that such a plan replace the supply management regimes that are in Canada?

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Noon

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, every time the minister gets up and talks about agriculture, he proves he was a banker.

Our program has absolutely nothing to do with supply management. We are going to backstop that industry contrary to what the minister and his cronies did over in Geneva where they put it on the chopping block. These folks need time to adjust. Those guys went over there and ponied up and changed things before anybody here had a chance to say what was needed. The minister spoke earlier about 40 representatives being along with him, but they were not allowed in the same room, so that was a bit of a false statement.

The minister also made a point about my commenting on the $110 million that went out under that CAIS advance. The point I made to the minister was that the industry lost $2 billion and more but the best the government could do was to advance $110 million. That was nowhere near the coverage that was required.

Out of the $1.8 billion that he talked about, last fall at committee his own officials alluded that only $250 million of that had been triggered at an administration cost of $154 million. The minister can check the blues on that one. That is what they said. Some $14 million of that $154 million was to administer the cash on deposit program that nobody wants. Even the bureaucrats do not want it. The safety net advisory committee said to get rid of it. The provinces said to get rid of it. They know the cash is not going to come back out of the minister's programs.

A lot of things need to be done. The problem will not get fixed by that side of the House because nobody is listening. They would far rather defend what they have proposed than step back, realize certain portions of it are not working, fix it, and move ahead. They should have done it yesterday.

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12:05 p.m.

Bloc

Marcel Gagnon Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Madam Speaker, I have listened to another fine speech, as I listened to the minister's response earlier. Back home, farm producers are wondering who has any real credibility.

As I said earlier, I have attended committee meetings over the past four years. We have heard many a lot of people. The only person who was right was the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. This means that the UPA in our region, every producer across Canada, every person who came and expressed their concerns, saying, “Watch out, Mr. Minister, we are headed for a wall if do such and such” are all wrong. I have always seen the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food react the same way. He is the only one who is right and who knows about agriculture in Quebec and in Canada. I find that painful.

The discussion this morning was designed to inform the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food, to expose it to the problems experienced by farm producers. These are real problems, not fictitious ones. Someone said earlier that some farmers stand to lose everything, if nothing is done. I know farmers in my riding who are now bankrupt, even though they worked all their lives.

Why would these people not be right? Why could they not be heard and have credibility, instead of always being faced with a minister who is the only one who can be right? I wonder if the hon. member would agree with me on that.

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12:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

The hon. member Battlefords--Lloydminster, a very brief answer.

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12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, it is always tough to be brief when we see the crisis that agriculture is in.

The member is absolutely right. The problem is that those folks on the other side, the Liberal government, are always looking for a political answer, something from which they can make some political gain. That cannot happen in agriculture. We are producing food for the world here and quality foodstuffs for Canada.

The CAIS program itself was tainted right from day one because the minister at that time, Mr. Vanclief, used it as a hammer. He blackmailed and browbeat provinces into signing on to a program they knew was flawed. They did not want to fund it. They knew it would not work. Those comments are on the record. There were a few who caved because they needed the cash flow but it was a blackmail situation from day one. It is tainted goods.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food did a two week whirlwind tour of Canada. He hit every airport hotel for four hours a day talking to so-called producers. Producers do not hang around in the lobbies of those airport hotels. They are out trying to get their jobs done. Those who want to talk to producers need to go to the farming communities to hold those meetings.

We did that in 1999. We put together a tremendous report on action for struggling agricultural producers, mostly grains and oilseeds at that time. The government would not even allow us to table it. We had 70 town hall meetings and spoke to over 5,000 primary producers. The government did not want to hear about it.

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12:05 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to express my appreciation for the good job my colleague from Battlefords—Lloydminster is doing and for the points he made here. Not only did the Reform Alliance party at the time conduct a series of hearings across the country, but the agriculture committee did as well in the last Parliament. We presented a report that we thought was balanced. It had all party support. The report contained a number of solutions to the agriculture situation. We never heard anything more about it. The report was stored away somewhere.

This morning I was disappointed yet again. I have only been in Ottawa since 2000, but already there have been three agriculture ministers. It seems that for some reason the Liberals think that the more volume and the more noise they create the more that impresses farmers. They do not understand that farmers are not impressed by that. Farmers are impressed by production and they just are not getting it from the government.

Twenty minutes ago I was on the phone to a producer who had called me about the CAIS program. He was really worked up. He said that he had sent in his application. He paid a lot of money to an accountant to get the application done correctly. He sent it in and it was sent back to him. He told me that it was missing a third of the payment that should have been there.

He told me what was done. He said that they took a look at some of the cheques. The Canadian Wheat Board issues interim payments and final payments and they got them confused. The final payments are what should have been figured in and he had included that. He had an explanation for it. They sent it back and said that they did not apply, that they were not applicable.

The producer said that they obviously fit. The accountant had fit them in. They made it work. They sent him a cheque with money missing. He said it was so frustrating. He said that when he calls and tries to talk to someone about this program, he reaches a different person every time. No one works on one file. He said that not only that, but they do not know what they are talking about. They have no understanding of agriculture.

He asked when this problem could be looked at. There are no deadlines on when they are going to do what it is that they want to do. He said that it was very difficult to get any explanation from them about what is going on with this program.

This is a program that is actually into its third year of development. If the government were honest about it, we are supposed to be reviewing it. When that topic was raised at the agriculture committee, we were told that the review will begin next summer. According to the guidelines of the program we are supposed to be in the review. The program is not even working properly yet. There is a lot of trouble out there.

Producers are calling me saying that they sent in their deposits and applications and they are not getting anything back, but a neighbour who did not even put in his deposit has already received a cheque from the program.

Some people have paid up to $4,000 in accountants' fees trying to straighten out what needs to be done in order to apply for this program. The program is convoluted and complicated. As I have said before, there are employees who do not seem to understand the program. The farmers are caught in a bureaucratic hell. The farmers are waiting for their money. The program is supposed to pay the money out and it just does not come.

As was so aptly said this morning by our agriculture critic, the member for Haldimand—Norfolk, farmers should not have to fight their own government. That seems to be what they are doing with this program. It seems to be what they have had to do from the beginning. As my colleague has just said, we knew from the beginning that there were major flaws in the program. The government would not listen to the people who are telling them that.

To be honest, I do not think that even our call today to set aside the producer deposit is going to go far enough to fix this program. For those farmers who are not able to qualify, that does not change the criteria by which they fail to qualify when many of them should qualify.

It is not only the CAIS program that has been a problem for these farmers. As was mentioned earlier, BSE has been a problem as well. The government has failed to deal with producers. It has failed particularly to deal with the United States.

The minister said that there have been dozens of meetings and that they spend a lot of time talking with the Americans. The Canadian producers know nothing about this. There has been no public presentation by the Liberal government in Washington.

In fact, one of the biggest places the government fell down was when R-CALF was able to get an injunction the first time. The government never even responded. Interestingly enough, R-CALF apparently has been able to schedule a hearing for an injunction at the beginning of March. I would be interested to know if the government is even considering being there and seeing what is going on and making an application and defending the interests of western Canadian producers and Canadian producers in general at those hearings.

We have no strength at the border and it is not just BSE; it shows up in other places. I would like to bring a different dimension to this issue.

Just last week the European Union announced that it is considering putting export subsidies on their grain sales. For the first time in two years the EU has approved the use of those export subsidies. The last time the EU did it was in 2002. At that time it subsidized 10 million tonnes of wheat at an average of 11 euros per tonne. My understanding is it was about $17 per tonne.

Now traders are again being invited to tender up to two million tonnes that will be eligible for these export subsidies. I do not know if anyone else has heard the government say anything about that but I heard absolutely no response from it. One more time in that trade area it has fallen down.

The United Kingdom Home-Grown Cereals Authority said that the reason it was doing this was because the wheat from the Ukraine and some of the Soviet Union countries was going into North Africa at prices of $10 and $15 below what the world market prices were supposed to have been.

However the government does not respond at any time to these actions that are taking place. I do not think there is a legitimate reason why the European Union should be able to get away with this. If there is overproduction, it being allowed to additionally subsidize those sales only creates more production. It makes the problem worse, not better. Where is our government on this? It is silent as usual. Why is it not saying anything?

I want to talk a little about how subsidization works in the United States. A report came out about a month ago which mentioned the top organizations that were actually being subsidized by U.S. taxpayers. In 2003, U.S. taxpayers doled out $16.4 billion in direct farm subsidies. That is a 27% increase over 2002. Once again, our farmers are being left out of the loop.

I want to point out where some of those subsidies are going because I think is important to understand. Riceland Foods based in Stuttgart, Arkansas, the biggest U.S. rice producer, collected almost $70 million in subsidization. The second producer, Rice Mill, collected $51 million. Farmers' Rice Co-op collected $17 million. Pilgrim's Pride, the biggest poultry producer in the United States, collected $11 million. Interestingly enough, the fifth on the list was Ducks Unlimited, a real agricultural producer organization, received $7.1 million in direct U.S. taxpayer subsidies.

The government has been dead silent about any of those issues. Violations of trade regulations must be going on in that U.S. farm bill but our government has never yet addressed or challenged those issues. It leaves our producers hanging. It brings us to the point where our producers are begging for support and help but cannot get it from the government. I know farmers are getting sick and tired of this. Why is the government silent all the time?

I am thankful that the opposition today has come forward with some good solutions to the problems.

I heard earlier that we have a two tier suggestion for helping with the problems but I think it is actually three tier. The member for Battlefords—Lloydminster spoke earlier about the whole farm production insurance program that we would like to put in place. That is the first tier. That is a production insurance program that would be based on things like a 10 year average of value and production costs figured into it.

The second tier would be a disaster program. That actually was recommended by the House of Commons committee in the last Parliament. I see my colleague across the way who was the chair at the time, the member for Miramichi, who did a good job in leading that committee which came forward with that recommendation. I do not know if he ever heard anything from the government in response to that recommendation but we certainly did not. We called for an emergency disaster fund to be set up to protect agriculture.

The third tier we are suggesting and one which we have been suggesting for years is that the federal government should be responsible for mitigating the trade pressures that agriculture producers feel. It is an important thing and it is something that we feel needs to be done.

We have come forth with three good suggestions for the government. The minister said earlier that he wanted to hear a process but we are going to come with solutions instead of a process for fixing things. First, we are suggesting a farm insurance program in which producers can participate. Second, we are suggesting a second level of support be available through an emergency assistance fund for the real disasters that take place. Third, it is important that the trade injury that is experienced by producers be taken care of by the federal government.

Agriculture is an absolutely crucial industry to this country and to my riding. I am glad to see that we are debating it today. The opposition is once again standing up for producers, trying to get the government to listen to what producers are saying and trying to put programs in place that will actually work for them. We are also trying to get the government motivated on the international scene so that it will begin to protect our producers at that level as well.

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12:15 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka Ontario

Liberal

Andy Mitchell LiberalMinister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, I have a couple of questions concerning more of what the hon. member said at the end of his speech than at the beginning.

He talked about an insurance program and mentioned that the way it would work would be that one-third would come from the federal government , one-third from the provincial government and one-third would be paid by producers. That is very germane to the debate today because the motion put forward is that the deposit be dropped. In the program he is suggesting the producers would pay for one-third of it.

Could the hon. member tell me how he would envision the producers paying one-third? Does he have any idea as to what the cost would be to producers under that particular plan in terms of what their one-third would represent?

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12:20 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, we heard the minister speak earlier about the fact that there are three tiers to the present program. The government insists that the producers pay and that the provincial and federal governments participate in that.

We actually envision a program that would be somewhat similar to the way in which the present crop insurance program is set up where producers pay premiums. It is in the programs that exist right now. Unfortunately, because of the government's failure, as well as the government in my province of Saskatchewan, to deal honestly with producers and support producers, that our crop insurance program is basically bankrupt.

We need a better program than we have. We are suggesting that we need a whole farm production insurance program. We think it could work very well with producer support and encouragement from them to set a program in place that works for them.

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12:20 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am glad the hon. member mentioned the subsidization issue in the United States. One of the myths that has been perpetrated in the House and elsewhere is that the U.S. does not intervene in its economy. In fact, in the auto industry, which my area is affected by, there have been massive interventions by the U.S.

I have a specific point on which I would like an answer. I have a hard time with CAIS borrowing practices that farmers have to follow. It has a borrowing element to it where if a farmer does not have the resources he or she must take out a line of credit to get into the program. I find that a double standard from a government that is paying down its debt and has no tolerance for borrowing or investing itself but says that it is okay for farmers to borrow and pay interest.

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12:20 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is actually even worse than that. In the past we had the NISA program and then AIDA and CFIP, but as the CAIS program was put into place the government insisted that as people transferred their NISA money over that they pay the deposit. They wanted them to pay the full deposit at the time because at the time farmers were going to have to pay 100% of the deposit in order to participate.

The government changed its requirements back to a one-third deposit that would be required but it would not give those farmers two-thirds of the money back. Not only was it forcing farmers in lots of places to borrow money, but it was keeping the farmers' money in its pockets and using it in the program. Farmers were not able to get it back. We raised it many times with the government before the end of the year and that change, as far as I know, was not made in order to help producers.

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12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I commend the member from Cypress Hills. He is in his second term and has served on the agriculture committee and represented his constituents very well.

I was encouraged by his remarks today about the government's lack of pressure put on the United States for the subsidies with which we see them coming forward. I think today we have a lot of cases where we slam the Americans for this and for that, and a lot of those things hurt the industry here, but what we see different is a huge level of support that the Americans have for American producers.

I have received a number of calls and letters regarding plant breeders rights. These are farmers who want to be able to raise and use their own grain for seed. Perhaps the member could tell us a little bit about the government's role in the past in research and development and why maybe this is leading us into some problems today.

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12:25 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, this is a huge topic and one, I think, we could spend an entire day on.

The government has been working with some of the agricultural groups, the seed growers and those kinds of groups, to do a seed sector review. Part of the recommendations of that review created some controversy on the Prairies. A lot of discussion has taken place on plant growers' rights and farmers' rights with regard to seed.

One of the interesting sidelights of that is that the government seems to be pulling out of agricultural research. We in this party feel that R and D is an important thing. It is one place where the government can legitimately put money. We would encourage the government not to pull back on research and development.

I have a research station in my riding at Swift Current that has played a very important role over the years in the development of seed and crop varieties. We really need the government to continue to participate in a public way in the research and technology that is so important for farmers. The government is wasting a lot of money on other things but on the Prairies we do not see the development of technology as a waste.

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12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Brent St. Denis Liberal Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Haldimand--Norfolk for raising the question of agricultural support. It gives me the opportunity to stand up once again to summarize the programs and the assistance that the government has delivered to farmers in Canada.

The riding I represent in northern Ontario includes quite a bit of agriculture, maybe not as much as southern Ontario or western Canada, but it is significant nonetheless. In Manitoulin Island, in the Thessalon, North Shore area and even in the highway 11 area between Smooth Rock Falls, Kapuskasing and Hearst, there are beef farmers and some dairy farmers. The clay belt area of northern Ontario, which has produced a number of our farm leaders both in Ontario and Canada, is very productive. The farmers there, like farmers everywhere in the country, are worried about their future. They worry about the level of U.S. and European subsidies. They worry about disasters, like we all do in whatever industry we happen to be. They worry about the future of their family farms and what their legacy will be.

The government is absolutely committed to creating an environment that allows our producers to earn a profitable living. That is a priority. That is why we have helped farmers get through these past few years by providing unprecedented amounts of government assistance. The government has delivered a record $4.8 billion to agriculture producers in 2003, and while all the cheques have not yet gone out, the government payments have topped $3 billion for 2004.

The members opposite want to talk about CAIS. Why do we not just do that. To date more than 31,000 producers have received over $563 million for the 2003 program year. Another nearly $152 million in interim payments and about $150 million in special advances to cattle producers have been paid to more than 25,000 producers for the 2004 program year.

However, why stop at CAIS? Let us look at the other programs and payments the government has delivered to producers during these past few years. CAIS is just one example of the government's commitment to the farming community, to the family farm and to the appropriate evolution in agriculture in Canada so that it is sustainable.

The government has acted decisively to help our ruminant industry deal with the BSE crisis. Last March the Prime Minister announced nearly $1 billion in assistance to be delivered in 2004 alone.

I wish to commend the minister for his tremendous support of the industry, his willingness to meet farmers and farm organizations wherever and whenever possible, his openness and frankness on the challenges and difficulties that face the industry and his message that the government cares and will make the right decisions as problems arise.

In September the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food announced a new $488 million strategy to reposition the country's beef and cattle industry by addressing cash flow and liquidity issues faced by producers and to expand access to beef export markets.

The members opposite like to complain, but they should listen to what those in the industry had to say about that program.

The first quote is by Stan Eby, the president of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association. He says:

The four-point strategy announced by [the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food] today aligns closely with our proposals... This demonstrates a significant commitment to a comprehensive long term plan consistent with the new industry strategy approved and put forth by the CCA...

That sounds to me like a pretty strong endorsement of our program and our efforts by the very group of people we are trying to help.

What did the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, the largest farm organization in the country by the way, have to say about the repositioning strategy for our cattle industry? A press release from the CFA said it:

--commends the federal government for listening to industry groups and recognizing the immediate need for a strategy to support the beef and ruminant industry...

Bob Friesen, who is the president of the CFA, said:

We are very encouraged to hear [the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food] commit to continuing to work with industry to ensure the effectiveness of these programs and make adjustments as necessary.

It sounds like we are on track. Let us look a few other programs.

How about the transitional industry support program, TISP? Over $830 million in federal funding has been paid to producers under TISP, most of that in the 2004 calendar year. Nearly $600 million was paid out under the direct cattle payment component and nearly $230 million under the general payment component.

What about the cull animal program? More than $106 million in federal money has been paid out to producers, again mainly in 2004. Then there are the production insurance payments. We are estimating that total indemnities for the 2004 crop year will top $734 million. In 2003 producers received more than $1.7 billion in indemnity payments.

I do not want to get into a long recitation of facts and figures. They can seem dry and cause us to lose sight of the fact that we are talking about human beings and families and the communities in which they live. Farming, as our Minister of Agriculture frequently reminds us, is first and foremost about people. It is about the men and women, their families and the people who live in the communities who support those families and producers. It is about the people of Canada who depend on what the producers do and what they produce. That certainly includes thousands of small businesses.

Therefore, it is essential that we understand what producers want, why they feel the way they do about certain programs, and we should work to address these concerns. Sometimes it means breaking away from the old ways of doing things, and the government has done that.

The CAIS program is an example. For the first time ever Canadian farmers have stable permanent programming for disaster coverage and programming that is based on need. Provinces, territories and stakeholders have all been involved in the development of CAIS. Is it perfect? No, not yet. Maybe indeed never, but we wish as a government to continue to make it better and better for the farmers that it serves. we are working on that. The program has been enhanced since its introduction to include a simplified deposit requirement and an increased payment cap, negative margin coverage and a linkage between CAIS and production insurance. It is a much better program than it was when it was first introduced, and a program with more funds. We are still working on that.

We are committed to our farmers to find solutions that work. If our programs are not working to the benefit of our producers, we are going to take another look at them. We are going to look at them collaboratively and in consultation with provinces and stakeholders. As the minister says, federal, provincial and industry cooperation is the three-legged stool upon which success rests. If one of the legs is missing, the whole thing topples over.

While responding decisively to immediate pressures, as was the case with the development our BSE program, we are continuing as a government to implement a vision and strategy for long term profitability and sustainability with a fully integrated federal-provincial industry national strategy for the agriculture and agrifood sector.

Our record speaks for itself. We have come up with a record amount of assistance to deal with an unprecedented agricultural challenge. We have been there for Canadian farmers in the past and we are there now, and we will most certainly be there in the future.

In Whitehorse in June 2001 the federal, provincial and territorial ministers of agriculture agreed to a new framework for agriculture that would help our agriculture and agrifood sector deal effectively with the pressures of trying to farm in the 21st century and ensure its future profitability and prosperity.

The agriculture policy framework is helping to move our agriculture and agrifood sector away from a cycle of crisis management and make Canada a world leader in producing safe, quality, innovative and varied agrifood products in an environmentally sustainable way. That framework is also flexible enough that when policies have to be changed, they can be changed so that the sector can adapt to new challenges and seize the opportunities presented by the increasingly knowledge intensive 21st century economy. Let us remember, that framework is there to serve the needs of the producers.

Crises like BSE and avian influenza have proven just how effective the APF can be. With the APF in place, Agriculture and Agri-food Canada, in collaboration with provincial and territorial partners and the industry, was able to devise rapid, coordinated and effective responses to these crises.

It is important to point out that we should be tackling the challenges of agriculture as we should tackle the problems of the country in a larger context and in a planned and consistent way. It is through the APF that we can advance the interests of our agricultural communities and of farmers and their families across the country.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of having the agricultural policy framework in place. Our agriculture and agrifood sector is one of the pistons of Canada's economic engine. It is the fifth largest sector in the economy and makes significant contributions to the gross domestic product. It accounts for one in eight jobs across Canada. It also contributes to the quality of life of all Canadians while ensuring stewardship of the environment.

The agricultural sector generates annual sales of about $130 billion, including $30 billion in exports. This contributes an average of $7 billion annually to Canada's positive balance of payments. Canada, with a population of just over 30 million, is fourth in the world in agriculture and agrifood exports after the U.S., the European Union and Brazil. This sector on which it is worth spending time, money and attention.

An historic $5.2 billion was committed to ensure that the agricultural policy framework would be a success. With this investment, the five elements of the APF, business risk management, food safety and quality, environment, renewal, and science and innovation, have come to life through programs that have been implemented across Canada and are achieving results of which to be proud.

The global nature of agriculture cannot be underestimated. For that reason, along with the five elements I named earlier, we also have an international component so that we can address world markets and trade issues.

Over the past three years we have made great strides in meeting our goals for Canada's agriculture and agrifood sector. Whether it is a case of refining business risk management programs to ensure our farmers stay solvent on the one hand or our dollars are used wisely on the other hand or to ensure farmers and farm families are able to stay on top of new developments and technology in farming practices or whether it is a case of science taking this sector into new territory, we have worked to create a sector that is at the forefront of global agriculture. As always, that work is done in concert with our provincial counterparts and with industry stakeholders so together we can ensure a profitable, secure and stable agriculture and agrifood industry for the future. That work will continue. As long as the world does not stand still, farming cannot stand still.

To look as far ahead as is practical, over the next three years Agriculture and Agri-food Canada will build on its experiences to date in implementing the agriculture policy framework and to refine APF policies and programming.

Canada's agriculture and agrifood sector is a success story. It makes significant contributions to Canadian society and to the quality of life of all Canadians. It has a reputation worldwide for contributing to the security of the food system and meeting consumer expectations regarding food safety, food quality and environmental standards. Canadian farmers produce the best food and the safest food in the world.

The sector faces pressure from a host of natural risks. I have already mentioned BSE and avian influenza. Market conditions and the complexity of the trading system create additional pressure. In the face of such pressures, our sector remains resilient because Canadian producers are committed to sustainable practices and because the government for one is committed to providing an environment through the APF for the stability and success of this sector.

The APF was developed by governments and industry to respond to unprecedented challenges to the industry. It is doing just that and will continue to do so. The challenges we face are difficult but not insurmountable. The key to its success is the continuing commitment from producers and from government to make it work, a commitment that has been demonstrated most recently by the meetings my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, has held with farmers across the country, and in partnership with the great efforts that our minister is making as well with stakeholders to ensure the best level of cooperation possible as we go forward.

I have no doubt that we can look confidently ahead to a strong and vibrant Canadian agriculture and agrifood sector.